What Can You Do With A Microsoft Touch Mouse? Lots!

For those of us with mundane minds, a mouse is a mouse is a mouse; you can use one to point, click, scroll, and drag. Fortunately, there are agile, bright minds out there, and they belong to a gaggle of students that entered the 2011 UIST Student Innovation Contest. (Well, at least the winners.)

Microsoft provided teams of entrants with a new Microsoft Touch Mouse, which has a capacitive sensor on board. Entrants were also given an API with which to access the sensor, which they were to use to create something--well, innovative.

Specifically, the challenge was as follows:

-Experiment and combine the Touch Mouse with other devices and sensors
-Get creative and write new applications for the Touch Mouse
-Demonstrate “outside the box” thinking using a tool that we use in our daily lives, in unique and different ways

This short video also explains a lot:

Awards were given to two teams each in the following categories: most creative, most useful, and best-implemented, with a people’s choice award also distributed to a pair of teams.

It’s surprising to see what these fertile young minds wrought. Some entries were a bit silly, if not entertaining, including the Snail interface (from MIT), the Toki DIY kit (IT University of Copenhagen), and the “Where’s Bo Peep?” game from a Wellesley College team. All three were essentially toys--prototypes, really, but definitely rich in interesting ideas.

The TUI.TAR (basically an air guitar with recording capabilities) from another Wellesley group showed some promise, especially for those interested in making music with the theremin and other “airy” instruments. Another innovative idea many would like to have right now is a back massage mat (from UC Berkley) that you can control with a Touch Mouse--over the Internet. In other words, you can give a back rub to anyone with the mat and a decent Internet connection.

Others were far more practical, if not downright impressive. A team from Carnegie Mellon came up with an idea for using gestures on the mouse itself to resize windows, one of those simple ideas so obvious you wonder why no one has thought of it already. A group from KAIST (Korea) made a grip-to-identify system wherein you can log in to your computer based solely on how you grip the mouse. Thus, only you with your particular grip can unlock your computer.

The eight winners (mentioned above) were chosen from a field of 30. You can see video of each winner in action on the Microsoft Hardware blog post.